Directional Drilling in the Great Lakes

Directional Drilling in the Great Lakes

by Mary Beth Brandoni,
Great Lakes United

In June 2001, the United States House of Representatives displayed strong bipartisan support for Great Lakes protection by voting 265 to 157 to withhold federal funds for oil or gas drilling activities in the Great Lakes. In July 2001, the Senate strengthened federal opposition to Great Lakes drilling by unanimously prohibiting the issuance of federal permits for oil or gas drilling in the Great Lakes for two years. The Senate further called for a scientific investigation into risks of drilling within the Great Lakes Basin.

States around the Great Lakes are using this two-year window to permanently protect the Great Lakes by passing state legislation banning the practice. Michigan: Michigan was first out the door, establishing a state law in April 2002 that bans any new drilling underneath the Great Lakes. The public and the state legislature overwhelmingly supported this ban. Ohio: State legislation is currently before the Ohio General Assembly and Senate to enact a ban on Lake Erie drilling and support increased energy efficiency and renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind. New York: Recently, legislation was introduced to prohibit oil and natural gas drilling under Lake Erie. The proposed legislation is a major step toward protecting the unique ecosystem found along the Great Lakes shoreline in New York.

During the course of directional drilling, oil, water, or synthetic oil is combined with other chemicals to form a drilling mixture that is circulated through the well hole. These mixtures frequently contain toxic materials, such as oil and grease, suspended solids, phenol, arsenic, chromium, cadmium, lead, mercury, naturally occurring radioactive materials, and barium. Additionally, fragile — and increasingly rare — coastal habitat for wildlife would be consumed by well construction and operation.

In order to further protect coastal and aquatic habitat of the Great Lakes from directional drilling, a ban on such drilling needs to occur in all states throughout the Great Lakes Basin. It is up to individuals and community organizations to work toward extension of this initiative across the Great Lakes States.

 

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